Testing for LD: How to explain to your child

My fourth grader needs to be tested to identify a possible learning disability. He is reading below grade level and his reading comprehension skills are inadequate. How do I present both the testing issue as well as the potential tutoring situation to him without getting an "I'm not stupid!" reaction from him?

Question:

If your child is below grade level in his reading ability, he probably realizes that he needs some additional help to increase his skills. Informing him that he will need to go through some testing may not be much of a surprise to him, especially if he knows that you have been in contact with his teacher and any other specialists on staff at his school.

The best way to tell him about the testing is to phrase it in a positive way. Start the conversation by asking about the story he is working on with his reading group. If he says something like "It's too hard for me," ask him if he'd like to learn how to be a better reader. Then present the idea of the testing to him. Let him know that the testing will give his teachers a better idea of how to help him.

Talking to your son about hiring a tutor may or may not be problematic. You know your son best and probably can sense what makes him angry, sad, happy or afraid. If you feel that he will react negatively to this news, perhaps you should soften it a bit. You may want to consider hiring the tutor without your son's knowledge and then invite the tutor over for dinner with your family one night. Perhaps your son will be more responsive to having a tutor if he gets to know the person first.

Of course, if your son appreciates directness, you may want to just lay it all out on the table. Let him know that the tutor will be working with the classroom teacher to help him become a stronger reader. Help him to see that the extra assistance isn't because he is stupid -- rather that he needs a little help right now. You can explain to him that this isn't a permanent situation.

Try to remain as positive as possible and refrain from any sort of "because I said so" kind of approach with him. He needs support and compassion. With that, he'll be well on his way.

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